This is the time of year when angels fly high in the public's radar. A CBS poll taken two Christmases ago found nearly eight out of ten Americans believe in angels. Many also think angels don't just inhabit a spiritual realm, but have a very real-world presence; so real, they're actually trying to speak to us. So what might your guardian angel be trying to tell you?
They come to us in a host of ways: as ornaments on Christmas trees to imprints in the snow. Angels seem to be just about everywhere these days.
"It's a presence. It's something you feel. It's a higher being," Jessica Froke of Sioux Falls said.
"It's like being surrounded by this energy of love," Teresa Schlup of Ayana Wellness said.
"They're understood to be the voice of God in a body that people can see," Augustana College Professor of Religion Richard Swanson said.
In the Bible, angels announced the good tidings of great joy during the first Christmas. But angels are common to many faiths. Jewish tradition has angels serving as kind of guardian gardeners.
"There's even an angel assigned to every blade of grass the Talmud says and that angels bend down to every blade of grass and says grow! That's a lovely notion because it supposes that even the forces of life, even the things that make grass green are something that God takes an active interest in and there's an angel assigned to every bit of that," Swanson said.
That angelic influence is one reason Swanson says people gravitate toward angels. They're seeking order in an otherwise chaotic world. Teresa Schlup claims she can even hear angels speaking.
"It's almost like a voice in my head, but it's not my own voice. But I'll hear messages; sometimes it's just a matter of knowing things," Schlup said.
Schlup says she doubted the voices at first. But now, she calls upon her guardian angels all the time.
"If I'm about to drive on snowy roads, I say, 'Can you help me get there safe?'" Schlup said.
Schlup even has a business she says helps others get in touch with their own angels.
Client Jessica Froke has never seen an angel, but that's not from a lack of trying.
"Now, I'm learning to listen and watch for more signs. Are my angels sending me a sign? Is this them trying to contact me," Froke said.
"They can find this themselves. They can hear those messages totally on their own. They don't have to pay me or someone like me; it's a matter of trusting themselves to receive those messages," Schlup said.
But such claims of angelic intimacy need to be met with a high degree of spiritual skepticism.
"I distrust people that imagine angels talking to them, particularly because that's simply untrackable. But the notion that the world is full of divinity that makes sense to me," Swanson said.
Angels have always been portrayed as divine messengers. But whether their message comes in loud and clear speaks to a deep desire among those who believe to listen faithfully.
"Angels embody the insistence that God would never let the world go silent," Swanson said.
Swanson says it's far easier for us to relate to angels than for us to grasp more abstract concepts about the divine. Angels are easy to visualize. If nothing else, we can wrap our minds around their halos.